A number of surveys and studies have been carried out in Ireland documenting
incidence of homophobia within society. A recent survey by the Sunday Times
(2000) indicated definite levels of homophobia in this country. Previous research
undertaken by the American Psychological Association highlighted how the
therapeutic process is inevitably affected by the values and bias of the therapist.
This present study examines the prevalence and levels of heterosexist and
homophobic attitudes amongst counsellors and psychotherapists in Ireland. A
questionnaire was design to collect data on the participants' attitudes on a number of
themes in relation to homosexuality. Some of these were: negative stereotyping
attitudes, viewing homosexuality as psychopathologic, prejudice around lesbian and
gay parenting, and using a heterosexual frame of reference for lesbian, gay and
bisexual clients. The questionnaire used both forced-choice Likert scales, and some
open-ended questions. A total of one hundred counsellors and psychotherapist
participated in this study, representing the whole of Ireland. Responses indicated
varying degrees of heterosexist and homophobic attitudes amongst the profession
ranging between very high, high/moderate or low/no levels. Ones area showing the
highest levels of anti-gay prejudice was in relation to adoption by same sex couples.
There was, however, considerable interest in the overall topic and in the results of
this study. The findings suggest that around half of the participants are at risk of
providing biased or inappropriate practice with their lesbian, gay and bisexual clients.
The implications of these findings indicate a need for more education and training in
homosexuality on counselling training courses. There are many possible lines of
research that could follow this study.